On 24 June, LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, commenced legal proceedings against the UK government to force it to hand over the report of Phase 1 of the ERP.
“We took legal action by filing a suit against the government to force it to release the results of the ERP, which had been running from May with broad sector support, to the point of paying to host some of the pilot events,” Parmley explained to TPi.
Since then, LIVE was made privy to data which provides background information about the programme. “It’s an unusual step for any sector to take,” he conceded. “The irony of their reluctance to release the ERP data is that it reads as a good news story for the government, despite them keeping their cards close to their chest.”
What the ERP data disclosed was that concertgoers had more chance of catching COVID-19 sitting in an office for several hours than being at a live event, despite the disparity in restrictions. “Life was starting to feel unfair as we were discriminated against,” Parmley stated. “I’m hoping now that the report is out, we can continue with the constructive relationship we’ve had with the government and DCMS for the past 18 months.”
With the report now out, the industry received more potentially good news as the Prime Minister’s recent announcement suggested a return to full-capacity shows on 19 July. “We’ve watched the rest of the economy reopen while our doors have been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, but the announcements will generate considerable excitement among music fans across the country,” reflected Parmley.
Summing up the consensus within LIVE, Parmley explained that it believes that the commercial insurance market has failed in regard to COVID-19 cancellation cover, and it is clear that restrictions could be brought back quickly if the public health data was to worsen.
This presents the sector with a great deal of uncertainty, and following a year of lost income, it would be impossible for the industry to absorb that scale of loss, meaning that while legally the industry could start to organise future events, the reality could be much bleaker. The suggestion: that the government announce an insurance scheme immediately to provide security and stability.
To ensure the industry can reopen sustainably, according to LIVE, there is also a need for an exemption to the isolation requirements through track and trace before a formal announcement is made later this summer. The inevitable increase in rates would lead to many having to self-isolate despite having been vaccinated and testing negative. Without this exception, shows may have to be cancelled unnecessarily at the last minute, costing millions of pounds and potentially thousands of jobs.
“The past year has shown that uniting as one organisation, as one voice, can affect mass change and be very effective,” Parmley concluded. “What has been achieved in the past 18 months wouldn’t have been possible without a collective vision. Associations are born out of crises, and this is the biggest crisis the sector has faced to date.”
This article originally appeared in issue #263 of TPi, which you can read here.
Photo: Oli Crump